POLITICS
27/06/2012 04:23 BST | Updated 27/06/2012 07:00 BST

Chloe Smith Savaged In Jeremy Paxman Newsnight Interview (VIDEO)

It is the latest in a long line of U-turns from the government that has led to George Osborne's 2012 Budget to be known as an "omnishambles".

On Tuesday the Treasury decided to delay a planned 3p rise in fuel duty in August until January 2013.

However having given a statement to parliament it was not the Chancellor who toured the television studios to defend the move, preferring instead to throw his junior Treasury minister, 30-year-old Chloe Smith, to the wolves.

And the economic secretary to the Treasury was subject to a Paxman savaging that caused The Huffington Post to hide behind our hands to avoid the full scale of the horror.

During the day on Tuesday there had been some confusion as to what the policy actually was and when the decision to U-turn was made - and Paxman wanted to know when Smith was told herself.

"When were you told?" he asked repeatedly. Smith explained however that she was not able to give him or the viewers the "full gory details".

Having insisted several times, in a line of questioning that looked in danger of going down the Michael Howard "did you threaten to overrule him" route, Paxman sighed:

"You cant even tell me when you were told what the change of policy was. You were told some time today clearly, was it before lunch or after lunch?"

Tory MPs are frustrated at defending policies only to then learn they are not going to happen.

Chief among those yesterday must have been transport secretary Justine Greening, who was defending the rise as recently as Monday. Something made all the more embarrassing given she held Smith's job before being promoted to the cabinet.

"Why didn't the transport secretary know about it yesterday?" Paxman asked.

Smith's response, an unfortunate coughing fit, did little to pry the hands from the faces of those watching and sent us diving for the safe spot behind the sofa usually reserved for England penalty shoot-outs.

"Is this some sort of joke?" Paxman continued. "Do you ever think you're incompetent?"

While Smith may have endured one of the most cringe-worthy interviews in recent times, there was a sense that Paxman felt a tad sorry for her.

Among those was Tory MP Nadine Dorries, a long time and vocal critic of George Osborne, who tweeted on Wednesday morning: "If Osborne sent Chloe on re scrapping 3p he is a coward as well as arrogant."

She added: "The sumbmarine Chancellor sacrifices another Minister whilst he slips under the surface...again."

Fittingly the term "omnishambles" originates from the political satire The Thick Of It. In one episode minister Ben Swaine is subject to a Paxman beating described as "bare-knuckle backstreet talking". We will leave it up to you decide whether Smith did better than Swaine.